There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?
Given that I'm now going to be posting poetry on a Tuesday rather than a Thursday I thought I would finally take the time to write on a prompt from Booking Through Thursday.
Of course I'm a New Zealander, not an American, and I don't have a clue what percentage of New Zealanders would claim to have read a book in the last year, however I hope it's higher than one in four. I have to admit that my reading of actual books has suffered as the number of blogs in my blog reader has grown, and I'm finally learning that it's ok to unsubscribe from a blog and that no one's going to hunt me down and demand to know why I'm abandoning them!
However I am and always have been a voracious reader. If there's nothing in the house to read then I will get extremely fidgety. I have been known to read the backs of detergent bottles. All my friends read, and we have a widely divergent set of reading habits, from modern New Zealand literature to cyberpunk novels.
I believe that someone will someday identify a bookworm gene. I feel that I inherited my love of reading from my father. From the cheap soft-cover Western serials stacked behind the toilet to the beautifully bound tales of the New Zealand bush, Dad was always surrounded by books. When Dad finally tracked down his long-lost older brother the two sat on their respective armchairs in our lounge and read together. They hadn't spoken in years, but there was nothing to say that would cement their relationship more than the simple act of sharing words.
My mother, who we believe to be an undiagnosed Dyslexic, shared our love of books in her own way. As a young teenager I flicked through the Mills and Boon novels stashed on her side of the bed. As our reading habits advanced, so did hers. We moved through Virginia Andrews and Jean M Auel, then onto my university texts. When I last saw her I took my copy of the latest Harry Potter with me, and she cast her eye over the Elizabeth Knox novel I was reading at the time and commented that she thought she might like to read it.
My childhood was full of Golden Books and trips to the library where I was one day allowed to pick a book from the shelves, not from the boxes of picture books. We ordered books through the Lucky and Arrow book schemes. Each week my sister and I would pick up copies of imported English children's magazines from the local dairy. Boxes of cast-off books would arrive from my cousins and be absorbed into our general collections. I had shelves full of books about ponies, yet never learned to ride.
I'm sure that there are people in my immediate acquaintance who do not read books. Without getting into a wider philosophical debate about living in the age of electronic media, I think it's a shame that a child might not know the pleasure of curling up in bed with a rectangle of printed paper, and of opening up the world inside.